Andrea Lutz isn’t spending her time in prison simply counting the hours until she can go home. Since coming to Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener 18 months ago, Lutz has embraced a bundle of Christian programs that are available to inmates.
In addition to taking two Bible study courses by correspondence Lutz, 27, has enrolled in Alpha courses in Christianity, has been working for the institution’s fulltime chaplain, and attends Saturday evening prayer meetings and Sunday evening worship services. She plans to preach her first sermon this weekend. Yet she has made her prayer-packed schedule even busier by signing up for a 12-step Christian program called Celebrate Recovery Inside. It’s a program inspired by Alcoholics Anonymous, but based on the Beatitudes Jesus professed in his Sermon on the Mount (The Gospel of Matthew 5).
Lutz said she is serving a 10-year sentence for manslaughter after turning herself in to police and pleading guilty to killing the man who sold her cocaine in 2007. An articulate woman with pale blue-green eyes and a soft face, Lutz was baptized at the Kitchener prison last year. But Celebrate Recovery Inside, available at Grand Valley Institution for the first time this year, is helping her work through her personal battles. “It’s getting me ready to be able to offer the help and the support that somebody else will need in the future,” Lutz said. “If I don’t deal with my stuff, then I’m not going to be any good to anybody else. ”
The program, run by community volunteers, is an adapted version of Celebrate Recovery ministries which are run at churches across North America. Lutz is scheduled to speak tonight at Grandview Baptist Church in Kitchener. The event is intended to raise money for, and spread awareness of, a volunteer effort to establish a halfway house for women in Waterloo Region. Lutz will share the lectern with Ashley Smith Robinson, the woman who was taken hostage in 2005 by a man who killed four people during a shooting spree in a courthouse in Atlanta, Ga. Smith Robinson talked her captor into turning himself in to police by reading to him from the bestselling spirituality book The Purpose Driven Life written by American mega-church pastor Rick Warren. Smith Robinson is in Waterloo Region this week to help raise funds for the halfway house and to promote Celebrate Recovery.
Andrea Lutz, a Grand Valley inmate, is in Celebrate Recovery Inside.
An Inside Leader’s Perspective
First, I wanted everyone to know that Celebrate Recovery on the Inside here at the Jamestown California prison facility is alive and well. Our waiting list for CR continues to grow as those of us working the program find hope and answers to the difficulties of life both on the inside and outside. We have witnessed a real increase of men finally serious about changing their lives. I continue to hear my brothers express their willingness to do whatever it takes to change, and gain back a purposeful life, free from drugs and alcohol. That’s truly exciting.
It’s a good thing when I say that I work very hard as the Ministry Leader to keep a steady pace helping to coordinate groups and help train leaders to keep up with the growing ministry inside. We are at capacity in both our large group and step-study groups, accommodating as many participants as we can into our Chapel and visiting room, without it becoming non-productive due to the noise level.
As Ministry Leader on the minimum custody facility for the past 3 ½ years and a participant of CR going on 5, I have witnessed a lot of guys come and go, heard their stories and witnessed both their pain and their breakthroughs. In all this, I too have had the opportunity to grow and find answers to my own issues. Isn’t it interesting how we all grow so differently? One may just be starting out and have a breakthrough in an area that you are still struggling with, even though you've been in recovery for a significantly longer time.
I think what CR Inside offers most is frank and honest discussion, questions and answers, coming from someone else wearing prison blues just like you. Similar backgrounds aid in promoting an attentive group. Thus bring about a more productive session.More...
Very little has been said about how God’s church can best help ex-offenders upon their return to the community, and for good reason. A recidivism rate that re-incarcerates about 7 out of 10, most within 150 days of release, and a recurring reminder of that failure blasted on the daily evening news arguably makes helping ex-felons a losing proposition. More times than not our Godly intentions turn into a significant level of humiliation, distress and even pain in the process.
Now let me give you the good news. Increasingly, 3 out of 10 are indeed succeeding in their transition into the community in growing numbers too. And no, they are not making the evening news, nor is there TV coverage on what actually works. So rather than focus on the major cause and effect of recidivism, let’s look at what many ex-offenders and law enforcement personnel themselves have offered as the basic “Do’s and Don’ts” proven to help a successful transition into the community.More...